Scientists find big cause of early-onset diabetes

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Researchers recently shared insights at a big health conference in Venice, Italy, and in a science journal about how being quite small at birth and then getting overweight by the time one is a young adult can lead to a higher chance of getting type 2 diabetes before the age of 60, especially in men.

The study focused on over 34,000 men from Sweden.

It found that those who were smaller than usual when they were born (less than 5 pounds and 8 ounces) and became overweight by the time they were 20 years old were much more likely to get type 2 diabetes early in life compared to those who were a normal weight at birth and stayed a healthy weight into young adulthood.

The research, done by experts from the University of Gothenburg and Sahlgrenska University Hospital, showed that these smaller babies who grew up to be overweight had a 27% chance of getting diabetes early, while those who were a normal weight all along had only a 6% chance.

This means that if these individuals could avoid gaining too much weight in their young adult years, their risk of getting diabetes early could be greatly reduced.

Type 2 diabetes is a condition where the body struggles with managing sugar properly. It’s becoming more common in younger people, which hints that the roots of the disease might start very early in life.

We’ve known for a while that being small at birth and overweight later can each raise the risk of getting diabetes, but this study looked at how these two factors together might make the situation worse.

The study analyzed health records from 34,231 men born between 1945 and 1961. These records included their weight at birth and their body mass index (BMI) at ages 8 and 20.

BMI is a measure that helps show if someone’s weight is in a healthy range for their height. The men were followed into adulthood to see who would develop diabetes.

Over about 34 years, 2,733 of these men were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. The study found that being underweight at birth and then overweight by age 20 was linked to a much higher risk of getting the disease early, compared to those who maintained a healthy weight throughout their life.

Interestingly, being overweight as a child wasn’t as big of a factor as being overweight as a young adult. This suggests that gaining too much weight after childhood, especially if one was small at birth, is particularly risky.

Dr. Jimmy Celind, the lead researcher, emphasized that being small at birth followed by gaining too much weight by age 20 was a very strong risk factor for developing diabetes early.

Dr. Jenny Kindblom, another researcher, explained that this might be because being small at birth and then gaining weight rapidly can make the body very bad at handling sugars, due to changes in how the body stores fat and resists insulin, a hormone that controls sugar levels.

They suggested that public health efforts should focus on helping people born small to avoid becoming overweight as they grow up. This could significantly reduce their risk of developing diabetes early in life.

The study points out that these findings are based on observing patterns and can’t prove direct cause and effect. Also, since most participants were white men, it’s unclear if these findings apply to women or people from other backgrounds.

Plus, factors like smoking, diet, and exercise, which can also affect diabetes risk, weren’t considered in this analysis.

If you care about diabetes, please read studies about new way to achieve type 2 diabetes remission, and one avocado a day keeps diabetes at bay.

For more information about diabetes, please see recent studies about 5 dangerous signs you have diabetes-related eye disease, and results showing why pomegranate is super fruit for people with diabetes.

The research findings can be found in Diabetologia.

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